While it stood Poet’s corner was probably the most ancient bit of old fashioned Manchester at the end of the nineteenth century.
Standing opposite the Grammar school, it was threatening then to tumble over onto the wooden paved street from its timber support.
Long Millgate was the principle thoroughfare to reach the Collegiate Church from the North side of the town but even by 1817 it was seen as a dead end.
Procter writing in his memorials to Manchester streets said
“ For most useful and ornamental purposes, this street, ruthlessly cut into many pieces, has been virtually dead for many years, only requiring to be put decently out of sight” depicting it as being lifeless with its unseemly corners and unsightly blocks.
Among its famous residents were the Reverend Joshua Brooks, a character in Mrs Banks Manchester Man, probably the most eccentric Chaplin that the Collegiate Church ever had. He married Sam Bamford, another resident of Long Millgate, and during the ceremony, the bride’s finger had swollen up so much that her groom could not put the ring on so Brooks attempted to push the ring on, suddenly according to witnesses leaping from the altar to one side of the communion fails to box the ears of a boy who was leaning on them.
Another story has it that while officiating at a funeral, he spotted a chimney sweep sitting on the wall of the burial gardens and was so offended by it that during his eulogy he uttered the following
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, knock that black scamp off the wall”
Other residents included John Critchely Prince who sold penny periodicals from No 15, Charles Swain, lithographer and engraver and the printer Charles Sever.
The streets origins probably go back to Saxon Times, the road leading to the mill erected on Hunts Bank.The first plan of Manchester shows the road running parallel to the Irk bounded by houses with garden plots to the rear, running from Fennel Street past Withy Grove and Miller’s Bridge to Scotland Bridge where a row of houses extending down to the river
Poet’s corner was also described by Procter thus
Probably the oldest building remaining in our dilapidated street is the Sun Inn and Poet’s Corner which has been a well conducted tavern as far back as history can be traced. But latterly growing rakish in its dotage, it’s good character as a place of public entertainment was forfeited and the license consequently withdrawn.More recently the ancient hostelry wore a novel appearance, being divided into two homely shops, one selling books, the other selling cakes and sweet meats.”
“Alas”, he adds, “ for the Manchester Muses. we have a pleasant remembrance of the Poet’s Corner when a real republic of letters were wont to assemble within its walls. The late Sir Joseph Perrin in his pleasing story of the Great Mantke states that in his youth he laid several visits, timidly and reverently to the Sun Inn. With the building he expresses satisfaction but his disappointment was great when the ports of his imagination were not to be found, and he hints that the nectar there inhaled was redolent of the Mountain Dew.”
Poet’s Corner came to prominence in 1842. The landlord of the Sun Inn at that time was William Earnshaw, who bwcame friendly with John Crichley Prince, a regular frequenter of his pub.
One regular would write of Prince to be seen indulging in a long clay pipe sitting in an armchair near the fire, listening to the goings on in the inn, John Bolton Robertson, Sam Bamford and Robert Rose, their circle increasing .Other scholarly men would also frequent the inn, and it was proposed that they form a literary society.
The first meeting took place in January 1842, a second in March that year and a third in July but this poetic burgoning in Manchester was brief, Prince left the town in 1843 and there are no records of any meetings after that.
The second meeting, at which there forty attendees led to the publication of the Festive Wreath, a collection of poetical works, written to mark the event, which came out in the form of a penny broadsheet, published by Bradshaw and Blacklock.
Among the contributors were John Bolton Robertson who had published Rhyme, Romance and Revelry tow years previously, George Robertson, who was to publish various volumes of poems, the dailect song writer John Scholes and Miss Isabella Varley, who would marry a certain Mr Banks and go onto write the Manchester man. Miss Varley would publish in 1844 her first collection of poems ” Ivy Leaves.
At the corner of Miller Lane was the house of Madame Drake converted into a tavern, the Crown and Shuttl
e. Drake, we are told was a rival of Lady Anne Bland, the first person in trade to set up a carriage in the town and said to live in the style of Queen Bess preferring beer and beef to tea and toast